What's Happening at the Bradley-Craig Farm?

The Bradley-Craig barn in February 2021, with front doors removed in preparation for foundation restoration work by Richcraft Homes. Photo: Kerry Reimer

Monday, February 22, 2021

StittsvilleCentral.ca | by Lesley McKay

The Bradley-Craig farmstead is located on Hazeldean Road – Stittsville’s long-standing historic landmark with its 147 year old red dairy ‘bank designed’ barn. Norma and Eldon Craig were the last to reside at the farm – Norma was born and raised there. She and Eldon, along with their two children, carried on the farming tradition on the settled land of her ancestors over 200 years ago. In 2010, the distinguished barn was designated heritage by the City under the Ontario Heritage Act and is on the City’s Heritage Watch List. Chaired by Mayor Jim Watson, the Heritage Matters Task Force monitors the List.

A short synopsis – with the passing of Eldon, Norma sold the farm to Richcraft Homes. A deal had been made between Richcraft and the City to move the barn to Saunders Farm. At the time, Richcraft strongly stated that “the barn would be out of context in a commercial development, and would be difficult to incorporate into a retail format.” If the barn was moved, the Heritage status would have been lost. Not meeting their timeline to move the barn in 2018, Richcraft decided to retain the barn in its present location.

Since that time, Stittsville residents have kept a close watch on our beloved barn as it deteriorates before our eyes. Richcraft were charged a pittance of $1,600 for not complying with property standards bylaws in 2018. How could a development company let this happen to a local historic landmark?!

This past week, there has been some movement at the barn. We noticed and others have also with reports to both Stittsville Central and on the Friends of the Bradley-Craig Farm Facebook page. Calls to Richcraft went unanswered. Residents have expressed dismay that the doors are literally left ajar hanging by their hinges, with others reporting that the doors have been left open, boards removed and left piled in the yard.

With these comments being made, Councillor Gower noticed and responded on the Friends of the Bradley-Craig Farm Facebook page on which he wrote, “I saw your (Mandy Hambly) note today on FB about the condition of the barn at the Bradley-Craig Farm. Here’s what I know – feel free to share. I checked today with the City’s heritage staff, who advise that the barn doors have been open due to ongoing foundation restoration work happening inside. Richcraft has been doing this work in conjunction with a heritage architect and with the required permits from the City.”

The Councillor went on to say, “Staff will be doing another check-up this week to review. (I also hope to be able to do a site visit once COVID shut-down restrictions are lifted.) The barn remains a designated building under the Ontario Heritage Act and is on the City’s Heritage Watch List. This means that a by-law officer inspects the building regularly for any damage or potential issues. Residents can also call 3-1-1 or contact my office with any concerns and we can send an inspector to have a look. Thanks for your continuing concern about this important building!”

Stittsville Central reached out to Marguerite Evans, a descendant of the original homesteaders, the Bradley family. Marguerite told us, “if Richcraft, in conjunction with a heritage architect, is now doing something constructive in terms of restoring the deteriorating foundation, repairing doors, and replacing barn boards, then it sounds encouraging. I appreciate that Councillor Glen Gower is following up on restoration work.”

Marguerite added, “we look forward to hearing from Richcraft as to the current plans for the Bradley/Craig farmstead, in particular, the heritage designated and rare, iconic, bank barn.”

This leads this editor back to Jackson Stitt, our first postmaster and for whom our village was named in 1854. Jackson Stitt eventually departed the village and his descendants scattered throughout Canada and the United States. 

Two of Jackson’s descendants own companies that specialize in the preservation and restoration of heritage barns. Sam Stitt III, a specialist in heritage barn preservation, owning Great Lakes Barn Preservation, and Mark Stitt, owning Stitt Barn Preservation and well known for his barn restorations. The Stitts may very well be the experts for Richcraft to contact to oversee the restoration of our own Bradley-Craig barn – notably because of their Stittsville connection.

View additional photos of the Bradley-Craig Barn at StittsvilleCentral.ca